The Spot: Counting the days until spring — and this week’s eye-catching political numbers

For people, policy and Colorado politics

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Outdoors is hinting at its next iteration with every tree bud, piercing ray of warm sun and small shoot of grass. It’s a time for rebirth and regeneration — rethinking the old as we make way for the new.

We’ll be giving The Spot a fresh look in the next few weeks, too, as Colorado rolls into spring. The insights and news won’t go away, it might just look a little different. If you like it, let us know! If you don’t, let us know!

And most importantly, if you have a burning question about politics at the federal, state, suburban or Denver levels, ask away before noon Tuesday, March 9, because next week’s newsletter depends on your curiosity.

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Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi and Alex Burness

13 and 400

Only 13 retail stores in Colorado sell puppies and kittens, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

And under a bill revived from 2020, Colorado lawmakers wouldn’t allow any new pet stores to sell the baby animals. The measure, sponsored by Wheat Ridge Democratic Rep. Monica Duran, also requires stores that do sell puppies and kittens to disclose information like the pets’ history, medical conditions and cost. 

The bill, which passed the House this week and goes next to a Senate committee, is aimed at making transparent prospective pet practices that negatively affect consumers.

This is not the only animal-related bill this session, with more to come about animal shelters and preventing certain animals from being part of traveling circus acts.

About 400 Coloradans with development and intellectual disabilities can legally receive sub-minimum wages from their employers. That will change soon, as the legislature is expected to pass a bill to phase the workers up to the state minimum — $12.32, as of a couple months ago — within four years. The bill sailed through its first committee this week.

A federal law from 1938 allows employers to apply for allowances to pay these workers as little as three cents per hour, according to advocates of the Colorado bill, though the state has not provided data for Colorado employees specifically. 

“This was seen as an incentive, as a positive thing to try to get employers to employ people with disabilities,” said Arvada Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger.  “We’ve just evolved since then.” 

The Biden administration also reportedly wants to change the 1938 law, and Zenzinger and GOP co-sponsor Sen. Dennis Hisey of Fountain want Colorado to do it first. There are 10 Colorado companies that have this allowance; Zenzinger said there hasn’t been pushback because of the phased wage hike. 

More Colorado political news

  • A bill to get rid of the phrase “illegal alien” in one Colorado law is likely to pass.
  • A coalition of Colorado Democrats wants to strip some power from landlords.
  • Colorado’s refugee resettlement agencies prepare for more people in coming years.
  • The draft of Colorado’s latest public option plan could affect at least 8% of adults in the state.

Federal politics • By Justin Wingerter

12

The 12 Coloradans who will redraw the state’s congressional districts have been chosen.

Ten live along the Front Range; the others hail from Durango and Alamosa. In accordance with the law, four of the 12 are unaffiliated with a party — but three of those four unaffiliated commissioners have donated to Democratic candidates in recent years.

Carly Hare from Firestone donated to Gov. Jared Polis’ campaign in 2018, Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in 2020 and several other Democratic candidates last year.

Jolie Brawner from Denver donated to Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, as well as Democratic state Rep. Lisa Cutter. Lori Smith Schell from Durango donated to her friend, Democratic state Rep. Barbara McLachlan, in 2016.

The fourth unaffiliated commissioner is Colorado Springs resident Moussa Diawara, whose last political donation was in 2006, according to a campaign finance database, to Republican Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino.

More federal politics news

  • Divisions were evident when candidates for Colorado GOP chair debated at a Weld County pizza restaurant last week.
  • Pueblo resident Susan Martinez is the latest Democrat to enter the 3rd District race, The Chieftain reports.
  • Unions rallied outside Sen. John Hickenlooper’s office Tuesday to demand a minimum wage hike, Colorado Newsline reports.
  • Hickenlooper is chairing two subcommittees, which is unusual, The Gazette reports.

Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson and John Aguilar

47 and 2

Denver said this week that nine library branches will reopen Wednesday with reduced hours and limits on what patrons can do, City Librarian Michelle Jeske said. 

That leaves 47 city-run libraries and recreation center branches to go. The measuring stick for opening and extending hours: declining  COVID-19 cases. 

Don’t expect longer hours or more libraries to open immediately, Jeske said. The earliest those changes could come is April, because library officials need time to make sure the nine reopened branches can operate safely first — for computer use, browsing the collection and asking librarians questions. 

Meeting and study rooms will remain closed and in-person programs aren’t starting up yet. 

Some of Denver’s 30 recreation centers could follow suit in the coming months, parks department spokeswoman Cynthia Karvaski told The Denver Post. But details are up in the air and subject to change. The department will present to the city’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board a roadmap to reopening next week, but, again, details weren’t immediately available. 

The town council for Rangely, a tiny locale near the Utah border, met remotely only two times during the pandemic. Otherwise it was all in-person council meetings because coronavirus case numbers and the positivity rate remained relatively low. 

Rangely’s approach to local governance contrasted with many Colorado communities, which took their councils fully or mostly remote on Zoom and other interactive online platforms, where residents could participate in meetings in ways they never could before. 

The question for many of those municipalities today is whether they will continue to provide that online back and forth with the public as the pandemic fades into the rear view mirror — or whether the people’s business is better done in-house.  

More Denver (and suburban Denver) political news:

  • The same day federal judges held Denver to a January ruling requiring advanced notice before sweeping homeless encampments, the City Council voted to earmark another $10 million toward hotel and motel rooms for the homeless. 
  • A 450-acre ranch outside of city limits will join Denver’s 22 other mountain parks, Denverite reported. The City Council accepted the donated land Monday and agreed to pay $80,000 for transaction costs. 

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